A few days ago, the Hollywood Scoop reported the same crew behind HBO's boys & toys hit Entourage were cooking up another show for the network. This one would be a spin-off of Entourage, but this time based around women in Los Angeles. The only report is that it would be like Entourage meets Sex and the City - which is a bit confusing because it's all the same show. However, I'm looking at this development a bit more skeptically than usual.
Trouble is, HBO already aired a different show that the Entourage crew executive produced. It was called How To Make It In America, and if we've learned anything from the treatment of female character Rachel Chapman (played by Lake Bell), we know that a well-written woman is hard to find.
Comedy is a prime weapon for devaluing and belittling marginalized bodies. Laughter aimed at an oppressed person because of their oppression intensifies and isolates the victim, and emphasizes their status as an outsider. I don't have to tell you this – if you're interested in feminism, you've probably had these jokes aimed at you and your body. Oppression is a serious topic, and jokes about it must be carefully thought out.
In analyzing comedy shows, how do I differentiate between actions that reinforce the ism at hand, and actions that superficially reinforce but actually subvert or critique the cultural assumptions the characters live with? When is a show making fun of oppression, and when is it making fun of oppressed bodies? Is there a difference? How do you tell?
I like cartoons, and watch several less-than-feminist animated series, but as far as Family Guy goes, I watched my last episode years ago, fed up with its recycled gags and the way it confused political incorrectness with edgy humor (has somone already made the joke "So crass, so old" about Fox's new "So brash, so bold"? Probably?). But the show, and creator Seth MacFarlane's spinoff shows The Cleveland Show and American Dad are, incredibly, still airing. Of course, to sustain the same offensive jokes over the course of three very similar shows and numerous seasons, its creators have to devise punchlines that are equal parts lazy and offensive, and most recently, at the expense of trans women in Sunday's episode, "Quagmire's Dad."
Hi there! I'm Rachel McCarthy James. In most internet-type contexts I go by RMJ. I write and edit the recently-revived feminist blog Deeply Problematic, and I'm here to talk to y'all about some TELEVISION. Read on for some thoughts about Television, in general!